E-bike delivery workers implored members of the City Council and officials from NYCHA and the FDNY Tuesday to reconsider a proposed change in rules that would ban e-bikes and scooters and their lithium-ion batteries anywhere on public housing grounds.
The workers crammed into the offices of Workers Justice Project in Williamsburg Tuesday afternoon along with agency officials and elected leaders.
“Bring solutions, not restrictions, it’s better for everyone,” said Gustavo Ajche, one of the co-founders of Los Deliveristas, in Spanish. “[E-bikes are] what’s new, they help the environment, it’s evolving, it’s going to continue. We have to find solutions, not make it more difficult.”
NYCHA is soliciting public comments on the proposed ban through Sept. 6th. If the rule change goes into effect on Oct. 15th, as indicated in the proposal, having an e-bike on NYCHA property would be considered a violation of lease, and potentially lead to eviction if a tenant doesn’t comply.
The housing authority’s proposed e-bike ban comes as fires caused by lithium-ion batteries have skyrocketed, some of which occurred in NYCHA buildings. At least three NYCHA residents have been killed in fires caused by the batteries: Two people including a five-year-old girl in Harlem’s Jackie Robinson Houses earlier this month, and one man who lived in the Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village last year.
At the Tuesday meeting, FDNY Chief Daniel Murray said most e-bike and scooter batteries don’t have safety approvals from Underwriter Laboratories, the company that certifies the safety of many electronic appliances nationwide.
“You're gonna have a lot of faulty products out there,” he said. “We're seeing a lot of fires.”
Though most of the delivery workers gathered didn’t live in public housing, they said they often make deliveries there, leading to concerns they’d be hassled by NYCHA building workers or the NYPD when making deliveries to public housing residents — or be forced to leave their bikes further away and finish the delivery on foot. Other advocates said they feared NYCHA’s prohibition would set the tone for private landlords who might follow suit, making it even harder for delivery workers to find stable housing.
Workers said they were well aware of the risks they faced while charging batteries at home. Those who could afford it said they paid for charging and parking for their e-bikes in Manhattan garages near where they worked. They’d been cautioning their members never to charge batteries overnight when family members are sleeping and to always have a fire extinguisher nearby.
Work with the community to come up with solutions for us, because at the end of the day we’re essential workers, no?
“Ok, ban them, but work with the community to come up with solutions for us, because at the end of the day we’re essential workers, no?” said William Leonardo Medina in Spanish, a delivery worker from Astoria. “We need centers where people can charge their batteries.”
Holly Martin, NYCHA’s policy director, listened on in the crowd and asked the workers several questions throughout their presentation. She declined to say if the agency was swayed by Los Deliveristas’ pitch, adding the window for public comment isn’t closed yet.
“We are really happy to be part of this conversation,” she said. “We are having meetings with groups like this and with the DOT and the FDNY to learn as much about this as we can.”